Chile begins airlifting food to hard-hit areas

Chile began airlifting more than 250 tonnes of food to Concepcion on Tuesday to aid the southern city devastated by Saturday's massive earthquake.

Death toll from earthquake rises to 795 as international aid begins to arrive Tuesday

People reach for goods thrown from a supermarket window during looting in Concepcion, Chile, on Monday. Security forces arrested dozens of people for violating an anti-looting curfew. ((Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press))

Chile began airlifting more than 250 tonnes of food to Concepcion on Tuesday to aid the southern city devastated by Saturday's massive earthquake.

President Michelle Bachelet told local media on Tuesday the death toll from the 8.8-magnitude quake had risen to 795, though the most recent figures from the country's disaster relief agency had the number of people killed in the disaster at 763.

The World Health Organization says it expects those grim figures to rise as communication and transportation improve and enable rescue workers to contact hard-to-reach communities.


If you were in the quake zone — or have relatives who were — tell us about your experience.

Concepcion was particularly hard hit, leading residents to loot stores and buildings for food and supplies on Sunday.

The looting continued on Monday and Tuesday, prompting government officials to impose a curfew and deploy close to 7,000 troops to patrol the streets.


Canada's Foreign Affairs Department says those seeking information about Canadians in Chile can call:

613-943-1055 or 1-800-387-3124.

One man was reportedly shot and killed and about 160 people have been arrested in the city as police try to maintain order.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials remain in close contact with Chilean authorities, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said in a statement Tuesday.

Harper called Bachelet to express condolences for the losses suffered in Chile as a result of the quake, and to reiterate that Canada was prepared to do everything it can to help, the statement said.

Canada's Foreign Affairs department said Tuesday that the government has located 746 Canadians and is actively looking for another 246 Canadians in the region who have yet to be found.

Robert Ouellette, a Canadian police officer visiting in Santiago, has yet to speak to his wife since the quake because phone lines are down across the country, but said he has been able to communicate via email.

Ouellette said his wife and his children are safe with a family in the town of Tome, about 27 kilometres north of Concepcion, but "they are scared as there are still considerable aftershocks happening."

"The family she is staying with, all the women slept in one room of the house while the men pretty much stood guard all night because of the looting going on," he said.

Ouellette said the family has enough food to last a week, but there is concern they might run out of supplies for the three infants in the house, including one of his own children. He said he was trying to find a way to get supplies to them but has been discouraged by police officials from making the 480-kilometre drive to the town because of the danger posed by looters.

Search for survivors continues

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the airport in Santiago on Tuesday. ((Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool/Associated Press))

Rescue workers were still searching for survivors amid the rubble in Concepcion.

Michael Black, a Santiago aid worker with World Vision, a non-government agency, said the death toll could reach 1,000.

"We thought in the first 24 hours that we were coping with it," Black said. "Now we’re finding out every hour that the magnitude of this is gigantic."

Chilean authorities say as many as 1.5 million residents have been affected, many without electricity and running water in the aftermath of the quake. At least 500,000 homes were damaged. 

The quake also damaged airports and roads, including the Pan-American Highway, Chile's main north-south thoroughfare. Around Concepcion, whole villages have been flattened, highways have been sliced in two and bridges have collapsed. The city's university was among the buildings that caught fire.

Earthquakes in Latin America

Jan. 25, 1939 — Chillan, Chile

About 28,000 people perished after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Nov. 10, 1946 — Ancash, Peru

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake levelled buildings in Ancash and spurred heavy landslides that buried the neighbouring village of Acobamba. About 1,400 people died.

May 31, 1970 — Chimbote, Peru

About 70,000 people were killed and 150,000 others injured after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake.

Dec. 12, 1972 — Managua, Nicaragua

Thousands of people were injured and 5,000 people died after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake destroyed large regions.

Jan. 25, 1999 — Colombia

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake flattened buildings and homes, and caused serious damage throughout Colombia, including Caldas, Huila, Tolima and Calarca. At least 1,185 people died and 250,000 people were left homeless.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

International aid arrives

President Michelle Bachelet made an official request for aid on Monday, saying the country needs generators, water purification systems and satellite phones to continue relief operations.

Bachelet met on Tuesday at the airport in Santiago with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who brought satellite communication equipment and a technician to aid in rescue efforts.

"We brought some satellite phones," Clinton told Bachelet in a brief session in front of the media. "That was the one thing we could get on the plane right away."

Clinton said it was the first installment of what will be substantial U.S. assistance.

Chile's neighbours have led the way in pledging aid. The first of six Argentine aircraft arrived on Tuesday, loaded with much of the equipment needed to set up a field hospital. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also pledged to send a field hospital and aid during a brief visit on Monday.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia is scheduled to meet with Bachelet on Tuesday after pledging to send a field hospital and 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid.

With files from The Associated Press